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November 11th, 2014

Salon Workers are Exposed to Nasty Toxic Chemicals

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

Salons can be a pretty hazardous place to work given that many harmful chemicals can be found in salon products. I’m always reminded of this every time I walk into a salon for a haircut. The overwhelming smell from the products literally stops me in my tracks. Imagine the predominantly female workforce in hair and nail salons who are exposed to these chemicals for many hours at a time on a daily basis.

Women’s Voices of the Earth has once again done some amazing work. They’ve just released a new report showing how these nasty chemicals in salon products harm the health of women working in salons.

This new report, Beauty and its Beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers,  is the the first ever to document how toxic chemicals lurking in hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and other salon products are harming the health of women who work in salons.

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

The report finds that salon workers are at an increased risk of cancer, miscarriages, neurological disorders, immune disorders, asthma, dermatitis and more.

The creation of safer products, better laws, and the use of best practices in salons can significantly reduce the health problems experienced by women working in salons.

Congress can pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act to ensure salon products are fully labeled and safe for salon worker health.

What the Report Shows

  • Harmful and irritating chemicals such as acetone, toluene, ammonia, and methyl methacrylate are commonly found in salon air.
  • Cancer-causing formaldehyde can be released from hair straighteners and flat iron sprays when used with high heat.
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists may be more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies, especially when their work involves using hairspray and permanent waves.
  • Studies have found increased risks of several types of cancer in hairdressers.
  • Nail salon workers have greater risk of immune disorders such as lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Salon Workers Head to D.C. with Report in Hand

With the report as ammunition, Women’s Voices for the Earth is bringing salon workers to Washington DC this week to lobby Congress to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act. They’ll be telling their stories to lawmakers, federal agencies like the FDA, and the media about how their health has been harmed by toxic chemicals.

Everyone has the right to a safe workplace. But as long as companies continue to use harmful chemicals like cancer-causing formaldehyde (found in hair straighteners), styrene (found in hair extension and wig glue), and p-phenylenediamine (found in hair dyes) salon worker’s health will continue to be threatened.

What’s the Solution for Salon Workers?

Women working in salons shouldn’t have choose between their health and their livelihoods. We can support these courageous women by asking our own Congressional representatives to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act HERE.

While we’re waiting for our government to act, salon workers and owners can take the following immediate actions:

  • Wear gloves
  • Use less toxic products
  • Improve salon ventilation systems
  • Don’t offer toxic salon services such as a Brazilian Blowout

Take a look at my picks for safe shampoos, nail polish and body lotion.

Salon workers deserve better. Don’t you agree?

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 
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November 10th, 2014

Why You Should Never Put Plastic in the Dishwasher

Groovy Green Livin plastic in dishwasher

Have you ever accidentally opened your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle? It’s like an instant facial. The steam and heat emitted are enough to make you jump back and close the door quickly.

The water is hot so your dishes are cleaned with minimal elbow grease. Did you know the water must be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit and not more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit for the best cleaning and to prevent damage to the dishes? That’s hot water!

What do you put in your dishwasher?

We have a relatively new dishwasher and for some reason it seems smaller than our older version. I still do my best to jam as many dishes into the dishwasher as I possibly can for a single load. Everything from plates to glasses to flatware goes right in without much of a rinse.

Over the years I’ve really weaned myself off of plastic in the kitchen. I’ve tried hard to reduce the amount of plastic touching our food in any way. For the few plastic items still remaining, they get washed by hand.

My rule: never put anything plastic in the dishwasher. And here’s why….

Heat and plastic are a bad mix

Repeated wear and tear on plastic, including running plastic through the dishwasher, could cause BPA, Phthalates and other chemicals to leach out of the plastic when heated.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics. Heating the plastic (stressing it) may cause more leaching of the chemicals. 

Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals used as softeners or plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC, vinyl) products and can be found in hundreds of products: pre-2009 toys, wallpaper, cling wrap, shower curtains, plastic PVC containers, nail polish, perfume, blood bags, cosmetics, personal care products, shampoos, carpeting, wood finishes and insecticides (the list could go on and on).

Phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts and some preliminary studies show that they may be causing a slow and steady demasculinizing of men. Other studies have linked phthalates to liver cancer and breast cancer.

Unfortunately manufacturers aren’t required to list phthalates on products. Look out for “PVC,” “V” or the”3″ recycling code on the bottom of anything plastic.

BPA

As many of us know by now BPA is bad news. It’s a hormone-disrupting chemical that’s been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

And if that wasn’t enough there’s more:  “BPA-free” doesn’t mean it’s safe“. As new alternatives to BPA are popping up all over the place we have little information about their impact on our health.

The Bottom line

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics.

Plastics are more likely to leach toxic chemicals when they’re heated or exposed to light.

I think I would rather hand wash plastics than risk those nasty chemicals leaching into my food.  How about you?

Are you ready to hand wash those plastic dishes?

 


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November 3rd, 2014

Mom Detective on the Soccer Field: Is Artificial Turf Toxic?

Groovy Green Livin Artificial Turf

This post was originally published at Moms Clean Air Force

It’s another gray, rainy day in New England and in a few short hours I’ll be driving a car filled with energetic young children to one of their four weekly soccer practices on a synthetic turf field. Unless thunder and lightening kick in their practice will go on, rain or even snow notwithstanding. The reason being an artificial turf field is almost always ready for play regardless of the weather.

For this reason and more the demand for artificial turf fields has grown to the point where more than “8,000 multi-use synthetic turf sports fields can be found throughout North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums. About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf and, since 2003, over 70 FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup matches have been played on synthetic turf soccer fields.

Artificial turf was originally invented by Monsanto in the early 1960’s and has taken several forms since then, with the most recent being “crumb rubber”. This type of artificial turf, which contains tiny black crumbs of rubber made from old car tires, can contain zinc, benzene, carbon black and lead, among other toxic substances.  As many parents well know, these “black crumbs” travel home in our children’s shoes, uniforms and hair and ultimately end up on the floor of our cars and homes.

Now we’re learning those black crumbs may be doing more harm than good. Soccer coach Amy Griffin began doing her own investigation  when two of her goalkeepers from the University of Washington were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She compiled a list of 38 American soccer players — 34 of them goalies who have been diagnosed with cancer. Ethan Zohn, a former professional soccer player, winner of the reality-television series “Survivor”, co-founder of Grassroot Soccer and a Hodgkins lymphoma survivor has had similar findings. He’s compiled a list of 50 or so goalkeepers who’ve battled cancer.

“Since I’ve been public about my cancer journey, lots of soccer players that have or had cancer have reached out to me via social media etc. I noticed a weird similarity…many were keepers. Then Amy Griffin, the coach at University of Washington reached out because she noticed the same trend. Not all were the same age, but most were young adults, between 15-39.”

Both lists are not scientifically based, but the sheer number of players (especially goalkeepers) diagnosed with cancer is something that can’t be ignored and they raise concerns about the potential risks of playing on artificial turf.

Zohn started playing soccer when he was 6 years old and really began playing on turf when he was out of college. He freely admits that “the likelihood that playing on crumb rubber turf caused my cancer is very slim”, but goes on to add “kids growing up on artificial turf today with long term repetitive exposure is different.”

When asked why he thinks goalkeepers were taking the brunt of the diagnoses, Zohn responded with this:

“A dedicated goalkeeper trains differently than the others. We are in constant contact with the ground in many different ways. Some training sessions are 90 minutes of just diving to save low balls. We sit, stretch, dive, roll in it. We are down low and breathing the air, injesting rubber, it gets in our cuts, eyes, mouth, nose. On hot days the temp is 10 degrees hotter on turf. Add some water and you boil the stuff. “

As parents we should not have to sleuth around the playground making sure equipment and fields are free from toxic chemicals, nor should we have to tell our children that they can’t play a sport outside because it could make them sick.

If there are potential health hazards they need to be regulated before our children are playing and rolling around on them. It’s time to take the burden away from parents and place it where it belongs – with industry. Our government need to regulate toxic chemicals by requiring a more thorough health testing of products BEFORE known carcinogens end up in our children’s playgrounds, fields and ultimately in their bodies.

What can we do about artificial turf?

Last weekend I was sitting on the sidelines at my son’s soccer game when a group of concerned parents began discussing the dangers of artificial turf fields . While I was angry that there needed to be a discussion, it was refreshing to hear that parents were taking this seriously. The discussion led to the 20 million dollar question: “What can we do?”

Here are a few suggestions for concerned parents and children:

  • Wash your hands immediately after playing on a turf field. Showering is probably the best idea.
  • Encourage your children to take off their cleats and socks outside your home, so as not to track in the “black crumbs”.
  • Advocate for team benches on the sidelines so the players don’t have to sit directly on the artificial turf.
  • Request that goalkeeper training take place on the natural grass, not on the turf.
  • Encourage discussion in your city or town about the safety of these fields. Be present and vocal if your community is contemplating installing an artificial turf field or playground.

Our current chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is badly broken. It allows chemicals onto the market without adequate safety testing. It’s time to change that.

TELL YOUR SENATORS: PROTECT OUR FAMILIES FROM TOXIC CHEMICALS

 Do your kids play sports on an artificial turf field?

 


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photo credit: Bronski Beat via photopin cc

October 23rd, 2014

Dangerous Chemicals Found in Popular Halloween Costumes

Groovy Green Livin Halloween Costumes with Toxic Chemicals

This is a press release by Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Clean Water Action. I’m quoted in here as a concerned parent, wondering why we keep finding toxic chemicals in products marketed to our children. 

A study released today by the Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Clean Water Action has found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and party supplies. The nonprofit Ecology Center tested 106 types of Halloween gear—purchased at national retailers such as CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens—for substances linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.  Advocates and parents in Massachusetts expressed outrage and dismay about the findings and called for legislators and retailers to act to ensure that consumer products are made safely.

“We found that seasonal products, like thousands of other products we have tested, are full of dangerous chemicals,” said Jeff Gearhart, HealthyStuff.org research director.  “Poorly regulated toxic chemicals consistently show up in seasonal products. Hazardous chemicals in consumer products pose unnecessary and avoidable health hazards to children, consumers, communities, workers and our environment.”

“It is beyond scary that chemicals that have been known or suspected to be hazardous for many years are still turning up in products that are designed for and marketed to children,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action. “And it’s outrageous that the government has done almost nothing to protect the health of everyday people from these hazards.”

Clean Water Action and the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow coalition are working to pass state and federal legislation to require consumer products to be made with the safest available alternatives. The groups are also collaborators in the Mind-the-Store campaign which is calling on the nation’s largest 10 retailers to end the use of 100+ hazardous chemicals.

HealthyStuff.org tested Halloween products for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (vinyl/PVC plastic), phthalates, arsenic, and tin (organotins).

Groovy Green Livin Halloween Toxic ChemicalsSome products contained multiple chemical hazards, including a Toddler Batman Costume whose belt contained 29% regulated phthalates, 340ppm tin, and lead in the lining of the mask at 120 ppm. Overall, 39% of the products contained tin at levels suggesting organotin stabilizers, which are endocrine disruptors and can damage the developing brain and immune system.

Saunders noted that Toddler Batman Costume is currently sold out at all Wal-mart stores in a 50 mile radius of Boston and on Wal-Mart’s website, suggesting that this highly toxic product is extremely popular among unsuspecting parents and children.

Parents in the Boston reacted to the news with outrage and dismay.

“It’s shocking to me that these toxic costumes and toys are sold completely legally, and that the government is doing nothing about it,” said Quanda Burrell, a South End mother of two. “My children love Halloween, my 9 year old will even wear her costume to bed, but I never knew that I could be harming my kids.”

“I put lots of time and effort into finding safe products for my children and giving advice to other parents, and in many cases even I can’t tell which costumes are safe and which aren’t,” said Lori Alper, mother of 3 from Bedford, and author of the blog Groovy Green Livin’. “We can’t keep leaving parents alone with this struggle, it’s time for state and federal legislators and retailers to step in.”

Upon hearing about the report, Michelle Gottlieb of Marblehead immediately worried about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mikey costume that she just bought for her youngest son, Asher, “If it turns out to be toxic, then I’m going to be extremely upset, because there is no way that I could have known from looking at the packaging and he will be heartbroken if I have to tell him he can’t wear it.” Fortunately for Asher’s Mikey dreams but unfortunately for Michelle’s peace of mind, the costume was not included in the study.

The results of this study are available on the easy-to-use consumer website – www.HealthyStuff.org and build on recent HealthyStuff studies on back-to-school products, summer seasonal & beach products and university-themed products.  The majority of these seasonal or specialty products routinely contain one or more toxic chemicals. Due to the fact that many consumer products are largely unregulated, the items tested sometimes have levels of toxic chemicals that exceed the regulated levels set for children’s products and toys.

In addition to finding many products with chemical hazards, HealthyStuff.org test data shows that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.  For example, the results show shifts in some products away from hazardous phthalate plasticizers to less hazardous non-phthalate plasticizers.  The represents a market shift in the face of growing consumer and regulatory pressure.

SEE THE RESULTS HERE

It’s time to regulate consumer products so we don’t have to worry about this. Don’t you agree?!

photo credit: CaseyLessard via photopin cc

October 14th, 2014

Known Cancer Causing Chemical Found in Always Pads

 

Groovy Green Livin cancer causing chemicals in Always Pads

It’s enough. I don’t know about you, but  I’m getting tired of hearing that there are cancer causing chemicals in products that go in and/or on our bodies.

This time we’re talking menstrual pads. Not a comfortable subject for some, but this is something we need to talk about. It’s time to put an end to toxic chemicals showing up in these products that come in direct contact with our bodies.

Groovy Green Livin Always Cancer causing chemical

Cancer causing chemicals found in Always pads

Our friends at Women’s Voices for the Earth just discovered that Always pads release styrene, a known cancer causing chemical, along with chloroform, acetone, chloromethane, and other toxic chemicals listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the State of California Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, and reproductive and developmental toxins. 

Both scented and unscented Always Ultra Thin pads were tested, as well as scented and unscented Always Infinity.

None of these chemicals—and no ingredients whatsoever—are listed on the Always label.

The worst part? These secret toxic chemicals are coming into contact with some of the most sensitive and absorptive skin on our bodies!

Toxic chemicals don’t belong in feminine care products. Period.

What you can do

Always shareholders are meeting in Cincinnati TODAY to talk about what’s important to the company, and they need to hear from you!

Please take a moment to call Always and tell them to list ingredients so that we have the information we need to protect our health.

Always Customer Service number: 1 (800) 888-3115

Sample script:

Hello. I just saw test results from Women’s Voices for the Earth that show chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and allergies in Always pads – and no ingredients are listed on the label. We have a right to know what we’re using on our bodies. Please list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals.

Take action

Send an email HERE telling Always and Tampax to list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals!

Today Women’s Voices for the Earth and Naturally Savvy will be delivering over  21,000 signatures to the makers of Always from women demanding to know what’s in pads!

Did this info surprise you? How are you planning to take action? 


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photo credit: Timothy Valentine via photopin cc

 

July 7th, 2014

Don’t Drink From a Garden Hose and Other Things to Avoid This Summer

Groovy Green Livin Don't Drink From a Garden Hose

How many times have you reached for a drink from the garden hose on a hot summer day? Guilty! My kids love it too.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to stop. That garden hose is harboring all sorts of toxic chemicals.

In 2013 HealthyStuff.org tested 21 new garden hoses from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Target and Kmart. They found:

  • One-third of the garden hoses tested contained enough chemicals of concern to be ranked “high concern” including lead.
  • Phthalates ,which are currently banned in children’s products were found in water hoses at high levels.
  • Water samples from several hoses contained numerous chemical hazards, including phthalates, lead and BPA.

Is there a safe garden hose?

Look for a lead-free garden hose with a lead-free label. This will make taking drinks from the garden hose for pets and children much safer and also cut down on the amount of lead landing in your backyard. Here’s an example of a  lead- free garden hose, which is also BPA free and phthalate free (affiliate link).

Make sure to let the garden hose run for a bit  before drinking, even if it’s labeled lead-free.

Don’t use spray sunscreens

While spray sunscreens are convenient (I’m the first to admit that!), the FDA is reviewing their safety. I know how challenging it is to get sunscreen on a toddler. I have vivid memories of  my three boys resisting sunscreen for many years. I wish I could say that it’s gotten better as they’ve gotten a bit older, but it’s still a struggle. What I will tell you is that aerosol spray sunscreens are not the answer.

Many spray sunscreens-especially the aerosol sprays-contain ingredients that don’t belong on your skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is very concerned about inhalation of nano-sized and micronized zinc and titanium in spray sunscreen. When you spray  sunscreen you are likely to inhale the fumes and this is a  much more direct route of exposure than when you apply the sunscreen directly to your skin. It goes directly into your lungs.

If you just can’t bring yourself to ditch the spray or pump sunscreen make sure you never spray sunscreen around your face or mouth. When applying spray sunscreens on children, pay attention to the wind and spray in a direction that won’t blow into their faces. Lower your inhalation risk by applying it on your hands and then wiping it on your face.

Although the dangers of spray sunscreen are still being investigated, why risk exposing your children to inhalation of harmful chemicals? Switch to a safe, non-toxic sunscreen, or a non-whitening sunscreen and have a fantastic summer!

Have you switched to a lead-free garden hose? On my to-do list! How about non-aerosol sunscreens? Have you found a brand that you can’t live without?

March 12th, 2014

Hey Walgreens, It’s Time to Ditch the Toxic Products

Groovy Green Livin Walgreens

Almost a year ago I went into our local Walgreens and asked them to take steps to remove toxic chemicals from the products they sell.

Asking Walgreens to Mind the Store

My visit to Walgreens was part of a larger movement coordinated by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families called  Mind the Store. Together we were asking the nation’s top 10 retailers to avoid carrying the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer,infertilitylearning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Groovy Green Livin Walgreens

Some of the retailers listened! Recently Target and Walmart announced new chemicals policies. While their policies aren’t enough, they’re a big step in the right direction.

I know I’m not alone when I say that many of us are frustrated that toxic chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects are commonly found in products we buy for our families. Basic products such as toys, soaps, shampoo, and cleaning products. Remember there was even a  cancer causing chemical found in Tide laundry detergent?

How you can help

Walgreens is the nation’s largest drugstore chain, and they have the power — and moral responsibility — to ensure that the products they sell do not contain dangerous chemicals harmful to our health.

Unfortunately, Walgreens has yet to respond to our repeated letters and requests to do something.

Join me along with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to call on Walgreens to Mind the Store and protect our families from unnecessary dangerous chemicals.

Send them a message HERE. I promise it will only take a few seconds.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Walgreens: no more toxic products!

Are you more likely to shop at Target and Walmart since they created new chemical policies?

photo credit: kaihm via photopin cc

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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Lori on ABC World News

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